The Dark Side of Superwash Wool
Wool is one of the most popular natural fibers for knitting and crochet enthusiasts. It is warm, soft, durable, and versatile. It can be spun into different weights and textures, dyed into various colors, and knit or crocheted into beautiful garments and accessories.
However, wool also has some drawbacks. One of them is that it can felt when exposed to heat, moisture, and agitation. Felting is a process where the scales on the wool fibers lock together and shrink, creating a dense and matted fabric that loses its shape and elasticity.
To prevent felting, many wool lovers opt for superwash wool. Superwash wool is any wool fiber that has been chemically treated to make it machine washable and dryable . The chemical process removes the scales on the wool fibers and coats them with a synthetic resin . This way, the fibers can slide past each other without snagging or binding together.
Superwash wool sounds like a dream come true for busy knitters who want to enjoy the benefits of wool without worrying about felting or hand washing. However, superwash wool also has some hidden costs that may make you think twice before buying it.
How Superwash Wool Defeats the Purpose of Using a Natural Fiber
One of the main reasons why people choose natural fibers over synthetic ones is because they are more environmentally friendly. Natural fibers are biodegradable, renewable, and have lower carbon footprints than synthetic ones.
However, superwash wool loses some of these advantages due to its chemical treatment. According to Knitfarious, superwash wool requires more energy and water to produce than regular wool. The chemicals used to treat superwash wool are also toxic and harmful to aquatic life. Moreover, superwash wool sheds microplastics when washed in machines, which end up in oceans and landfills.
Superwash wool also defeats the purpose of using a natural fiber because it alters some of its inherent qualities. For example,
- Superwash wool loses some of its warmth and breathability due to the synthetic coating .
- Superwash wool loses some of its elasticity and memory due to the removal of scales .
- Superwash wool loses some of its natural color variation due to bleaching before dyeing.
These changes may affect how your finished projects look and feel compared to regular wool.
How Superwash Wool Harms the Planet Because It Becomes Non-Biodegradable
Another reason why people choose natural fibers over synthetic ones is because they are biodegradable. Biodegradable means that they can be broken down by natural processes into harmless substances that can be recycled by nature.
However, superwash wool becomes non-biodegradable due to its chemical treatment. The synthetic resin that coats superwash wool prevents it from decomposing naturally. Instead, it persists in landfills for years or even centuries.
Superwash wool also harms the planet because it contributes to microplastic pollution. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that are less than 5 mm in size. They can come from various sources such as cosmetics, clothing, packaging, and fishing gear.
Microplastics pose a serious threat to wildlife and human health because they can be ingested by animals or humans through food chains or water sources. They can also accumulate toxins such as pesticides or heavy metals along their journey through ecosystems.
Superwash wool sheds microplastics when washed in machines because its synthetic coating wears off over time. These microplastics then enter wastewater systems and eventually reach oceans or landfills where they harm marine life or soil quality.
Superwash wool may seem like a convenient option for knitters who want to enjoy the benefits of wool without worrying about felting or hand washing.
However, superwash wool also has some hidden costs that may make you reconsider your choice.